Exploring Hypertextuality

Many traditional stories follow a linear reading model, where the reader travels from page to page in exactly the order the author intended, as described below:

A linear model

In doing so, the author allows for only one path, and has extreme control over the reader's experience; with each section, he or she can assume everything that the reader has experienced up to that point, and can build upon it. Hypertext offers two other models for author-reader interaction, which digital writers can take advantage of in their writing.

Example Works

Interactive Stories

Hyperfiction opens up to the author greater ability to allow for user choice than on the page. A story can have multiple choices at the end of a page-like section, or have hyperlinks embeded within the text, allowing readers to abandon their current storyline in favor of a different one. An interactive story can thus have many different paths that allow the user to explore and understand the consequences of his or her choices. This model is more akin to the following:

An interactive plot model

A necessary caution of this model for storytelling is that actively clicking removes a reader from the storyline, and reinforces the fact that they are sitting at a computer instead of immersed in a book. When creating hyperlinks between parts of a work, consider the importance of that choice to the story as a whole, and whether the benefit of the interaction warrants interruption of the plot.

Example Works

Non-Linear Stories

Finally, a non-linear story gives the reader absolute control over creating their experience. These stories allow readers to navigate backwards and forwards within their site, and make few or no assumptions about the path that the reader has chosen to travel thus far.

A non-linear plot model

Creating a non-linear story requires great flexibility on the part of the author. He or she must decide and plan for the multitude of paths a reader might experience, and understand that a reader may experience the same storyline more than once. How will the reader react—with curiousity or frustration? Will the choice sets be the same as the initial choices?

Example works